Back in the 1990s, a VP that I reported to was bemoaning the fact that one of his star account teams – all men – was having a hard time effectively managing a brand. The account? Feminine hygiene products.
It sounds ridiculous (one can only imagine the meetings). But it’s not especially surprising. And it sure does illustrate an important truth about women in business – how much we need them.
This flies in the face of how women’s equity is so often presented – for the sake of equity. The enthusiasm to Hire more women! Get more in the C-suite! Get women to hire more women! can make the movement seem one-dimensional. But it isn’t. This isn’t an issue about women (or just women). It’s an issue about progress – for all of us.
A Question of Progress — Everyone’s Progress
Here’s the thing: anytime you summarily axe out a segment of the workforce, you’ve axed out everything they have to offer. Women are half the population; they’re half of potential consumers; they’re half of the knowledge base, and so they’re half the potential ideas and the innovations that could be percolating in your workforce. Take them out of the equation, and you’ve denied yourself a sizeable source of contributions. And that’s not just bad for women – it’s just plain bad business.
How bad? On study called women “The most underutilized economic asset in the world,” adding that they’re “the key to unlocking U.S. GDP growth.” Another showed that a 30% rise in women leaders is linked to a 15% rise in profits. Yet that same study also showed that the majority of companies have no female board members and no women in the c-suite. In fact, for years, even as women surpass men in college degrees earned, their participation in the workforce has been sliding backwards.
Happy International Women’s Day!
So as we celebrate International Women’s Day today, remember that inclusion – not just women, but inclusion of all — isn’t merely for the sake of inclusion; it’s for the sake of the very best ideas that included people bring with them. It’s for the sake of the unique understanding they provide your organization. It’s for the sake of the diversity of ideas that makes us all better. So supporting more women in business; encouraging more women in the c-suite; ensuring that women bring in more women is the starting point for better business.
If all that’s not enough, remember that women are a big part of the marketplace, accounting for more than 70% of sales. “They control 64% of consumer spending and are the fastest growing group of consumers in the world today,” says the WEF.
That means there’s an enormous market share up for grabs; a segment of products and services that need to be effectively aimed at women. And that’s not so easy to do without a woman’s voice to guide it.
How not so easy?
Just ask that VP.